People tell me they became vegan because they feel ‘compassion for animals’. Yet, they are quick to condemn fellow humans for not being vegan. At this time, I gently point out the obvious, that humans are animals to.
In Sanskrit, the word compassion has two words: daya and karuna. The first is means “suffering in the suffering of all others”, and the second means “the ability to relate to another with such intensity that their plight becomes our own”. In the West then, the word compassion means “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” In every definition above, I see a direct relation with empathy, or “the vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts or attitudes of another”.
In any event, true compassion – our ability to relate to the feelings and attitudes of another – must begin first with our self. So that for me to truly befriend another, I must first be a friend to self; and for me to be honest with others, I must first be honest with self; and for me to be accepting and genuinely caring about others, I must first genuinely accept and care about my self.
You see, when we feel comfortable in our own skin then that comfort extends organically outwards to others, regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or diet. Therefore, it seems to me, that to remove the obstacles from my heart, I must seek out the path of compassion towards my self.
Ive said it before .. that in all my years as a vegetarian, I never met a “radical vegetarian/vegan” .. not until I signed onto facebook. Since then, I have seen my fairshare of what all the fuss is about. Subsequently, I have unsubbed myself from several vegan groups on facebook (and other places) because of the harmful words and disdainful attitudes among those that claim to promote a “compassionate” lifestyle.
For me .. life is short and precious and full of promise, as such, I choose support and education rather than attack and show disdain for others when discussing my lifestyle.
You see, for me, being a vegetarian or a vegan or someone who simply decides to have a plant-based diet, has never been about a competition (or a pissing contest), but about exploring who I am in the wonderful world around me. Equally as it is about finding others of likemind and sharing the adventure together.
You see, from my perspective, there is a path for everyone, and this vantage has been arrived at by my living a compassionate lifestyle. Clearly, not all of us have arrived at this place .. and honestly, its not a race to do so, let alone do so. Its just how I see things from my view of the world.
My path is the path of peace – in my life, among my friends and relations, in my country, in the world. As such, I seek to ever expand my capacity and opportunity to extend compassion and forgiveness unconditionally – even toward those who harm others through their diet.
That makes my karuna, my compassion, unconditional .. or as close as my breath. This means that my karuna means accepting my self and others without condition or judgment. And in this on-going practice, I have been able to remove many barriers that would impede the flow of genuine good will and gratitude that I have come to feel are natural to all beings.
Unconditional Compassion then is my sadhana, my “means of accomplishment”, or the means by which my divine potential has come to heal myself and heal the world around me. And for me – in regards to diet – that first step is assistance through education – which can be as gracious as recognizing that each of us my first learn to walk before we can run.
Prem and Metta!